Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 004

Dexter W. Allis, "Fun With the Phonograph," Scientific American, November 25, 1905, p. 415.

Few owners of the phonograph realize the great versatility of this machine as a source of amusement.  By its use the following experiments may be carried out.  In addition to the machine itself, a recorder and a few blank records will be needed.

"Speech by Tom Thumb."  The machine must be speeded up as high as possible, and the above announcement recorded on a blank in a deep, loud voice.  The machine should be quickly slowed down to about eighty revolutions per minute, and the speech or monologue recorded at that speed, care being taken to articulate distinctly.   When the blank is full, the reproducer may be substituted for the recorder, and the machine be brought up again to high speed at which the announcement was made.  When the record is reproduced at this speed, the result will be the loud voice of the announcement followed by a rapid, pinched-up little voice making the speech.

"A Whistling Duet by John Smith."  This startling announcement through the horn would create much surprise.

Put on a blank; and, after the speed is about 160 revolutions, whistle some popular piece of which you know the second part.  When the record is full, set the recorder back to the beginning again without stopping the machine.  When the recording point gets to the commencement of the piece, the first part will sound faintly in the recorder, thus giving the cue and the pitch for the second, which should be recorded not quite so loudly as the first.

Several modifications of this experiment will suggest themselves.  The first attempt may not be perfectly successful, but that need not be considered a drawback, as a spoiled record can be easily cleaned with a rag and a little kerosene.  The rubbing should be lengthwise of the cylinder till the lines are all removed, after which a soft cloth is rubbed around the record to give a polish.  Hard or gold molded records may also be cleaned in this way, which fact suggests another amusing trick.

This will call for two records, preferably talking selections, which are exact duplicates.  One of these is "doctored" by cleaning off the latter half, the rest being protected by a piece of writing paper wrapped around and secured by an elastic band.  On this blank space various remarks should be recorded, which should be very different from those originally there.  The good record is to be played through first.  While saying that you will repeat it, the second one is quickly substituted in the machine, and of course starts off exactly like the first one.   When the "doctored" portion is reached, however, a change will be noticed, but cannot be accounted for by the hearers.

By taking two records of entirely different character, cutting each in two, and putting on a half of one and a half of the other, we can often jump from the sublime to the ridiculous by quickly flipping the reproducer across the gap, from one to the other.   With care the thinner half of one of these records may be slipped halfway on, in a reversed position, and when made to run true, will produce everything backward.  A curious thing about such records is that the voice once heard in the proper direction is instantly recognized when reversed, but is, of course, unintelligible.